A schedule of 34 stakes races worth more than $3.5 million headlines the 37-day Fair Grounds meet beginning next month at Harrah's Louisiana Downs.
The Fair Grounds-at-Louisiana Downs season begins Nov. 19, with the Gentilly Stakes for 2-year-old Louisiana-breds on turf serving as the opening day feature. The opening day feature will serve as a reminder of Fair Grounds' home.
For the first winter in 92 years, live racing will not be conducted on Gentilly Boulevard in New Orleans. Fair Grounds sustained damage from Hurricane Katrina Aug. 29, and will instead run its 134th season in Bossier City.
"We are most grateful to the management of Harrah's Louisiana Downs, the Louisiana HBPA and the various regulatory agencies, most notably the Louisiana State Racing Commission, for working with us to bring the Fair Grounds meet to Louisiana Downs," Soth said.
Four graded stakes will be conducted as part of the meet, beginning with the $400,000 grade II New Orleans Handicap Jan. 7.
Three grade III events will be part of "Road to the Derby" Kickoff Day Jan. 14, all with $200,000 purses: the Risen Star for 3-year-olds, which will be the first graded stakes race for 3-year-olds; the Silverbulletday for 3-year-old fillies, and the Bayou Breeders' Cup Handicap for older fillies and mares on the turf.
Along with Kickoff Day, the other major event day on the schedule is the 15th annual Louisiana Champions Day Dec. 10, featuring seven Thoroughbred and three Quarter Horse stakes worth $1 million in purses.
The traditional holiday feature, the Thanksgiving Breeders' Cup Handicap, is slated for Nov. 24. It is one of six stakes to feature added money from the Breeders' Cup Stakes program, the most ever in a Fair Grounds season. A total of $225,000 is available for Breeders' Cup-nominated horses.
One new race is on the schedule, the Bedanken Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on the turf Jan. 15. Back after a one-year hiatus is the Woodchopper Stakes, to be run Nov. 27 for 3-year-olds on turf.
The first of three condition books will be released later this month. Daily purses are expected to average $300,000 per day.